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World Ballet Stars, a Gala for the Romanian National Ballet, at Rose Theater

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RA Entertainment, Romanian Cultural Institute in New York,
Mara Society, Princess Marina Sturdza, Alina Cojocaru

Bucharest National Opera House
Johan Kobborg, Artistic Director of Ballet


World Ballet Stars
A Benefit for the Romanian National Ballet
(Event Web Page)

Frederick P. Rose Hall
Rose Theater
Home of Jazz at Lincoln Center

Matei Varga, Pianist
Melanie Génin, Harp
Kurt Nikkanen, Violin
Mihai Marica, Cello

Alina Cojocaru, Johan Kobborg
Tamara Rojo, Ulyana Lopatkina, Daniil Simkin, Friedemann Vogel
Isaac Hernandez, Daniel Ulbricht, Bianca Fota
Sena Hidaka, Dawid Trzensimiech, Marina Minoiu, Robert Enache
Shuhei Yoshida, Alexandra Gavrilescu, Bogdan Canila

Press: RA Entertainment:

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 9, 2015

Alina Cojocaru, who has appeared on these pages over the years as a Guest Artist with American Ballet Theatre, organized, with the help of New York-based Romanian cultural and publicity groups, tonight’s benefit for a future Romanian National Ballet. Ms. Cojocaru’s fiancé, Johan Kobborg, Artistic Director of the ballet company of the Bucharest National Opera House, along with RA Entertainment, the Mara Society, the Romanian Cultural Institute in New York, and Princess Marina Sturdza, created this World Ballet Stars Gala to raise funds for a significant and successful National Ballet in Romania. Rose Theater was packed, and hopefully the dreams of Ms. Cojocaru and Mr. Kobborg, along with their collaborators, will be realized. All of tonight’s performers and musicians volunteered their time and effort, and, as many performers traveled from Romania and from far and wide, this was truly a labor of love and dedication to homeland and fellow artists. There were figures both familiar (dancers and violinist from New York City Ballet [NYCB] and company and guest dancers from American Ballet Theatre [ABT] and new (dancers and musicians from Romania and Western Europe). Ms. Cojocaru dances with the English National Ballet and Hamburg Ballet, and is a permanent guest artist-in-residence with the Bucharest National Opera House. Mr. Kobborg was a Principal with The Royal Danish Ballet and The Royal Ballet in London.

Most of tonight’s performances were pas de deux, from many of my favorite ballets. Much of the music was recorded, but in select ballets, musicians were onstage. The Gala opened with Petipa’s “The Rose Adagio” from The Sleeping Beauty, to Tchaikovsky, danced by Ms. Cojocaru, as Aurora, and four princes, Johan Kobborg, Robert Enache (Bucharest Opera), Daniel Ulbricht (NYCB), and Daniil Simkin (ABT). Ms. Cojocaru kept perfect poise as she held the hands of each prince and even stood on her own, en pointe, for endless seconds. She exuded youthful rapture. Edward Clug’s excerpted Radio and Juliet was next, music by Radiohead, danced by Bianca Fota and Dawid Trzensimiech (both Bucharest National Opera). This is a loosely danced modern piece, with undulating torsos, heads, and limbs, but it displayed the versatility of Romanian dance choreography. Le Corsaire was represented in the Pas de Deux, that substituted for another listed excerpt. The Petipa choreography was danced by Sena Hidaka (Bucharest Opera) and Isaac Hernandez (English National Ballet), in a virtuosic performance, with Ms. Hidaka crisply jettisoning her 32 fouettés and Mr. Hernandez defying gravity in backward leaps, rapid turns, and speedy dashes.

No Man’s Land Pas de Deux, by Liam Scarlett, was performed by the two lead fiancés, Ms. Cojocaru, in a grey dress, and Mr. Kobborg, bare-chested, to music by Liszt. The Romanian-born, Matei Varga was on piano, absolutely exquisite. Mr. Scarlett’s ballets have been favorably reviewed on these pages, for their intense romantic passion and intertwining torsos and lifts. Tonight, we were not disappointed. Daniil Simkin, an ABT Principal, danced a hugely engaging solo, Les Bourgeois, by Ben van Cauwenbergh, music by Jacques Brel. I’ve seen this work previously, but never like tonight, with Mr. Simkin’s winning smile, warmth, and outsized athleticism. Mr. Simkin is taut and diminutive, full of life, and astounding in mid-air, circular leaps and leaning spins about the stage. With vaudevillian, formal attire, the audience was vocally enthused. With You, by Ross McCaw, music by Reinecke, was fascinating and contemporary, danced by Marina Minoiu (Bucharest Opera) and Mr. Enache. An excerpt from Ashton’s Marguerite and Armand, with Mr. Varga back onstage to play the Liszt score, was bristling with rapture and angst. Ms. Cojocaru was the Parisian courtesan, Marguerite, Mr. Trzensimiech was her lover, Armand, and Mr. Kobborg was Armand’s disruptive father. They danced the “country house” scene, when Marguerite rejects Armand, as she secretly obeys his father’s command. The brief, but virtuosic pas de deux was gorgeous.

The Manon Pas de Deux, danced by Ms. Fota and, once again, Mr. Trzensimiech, would have been better served with more credible drama and gestural pain. The Massenet ballet score is one of my personal favorites, and it lends itself to high theater. However, the couple’s technical feats were impressive, with the requisite tosses, lifts, and dizzying turns. Edward Clug’s Tango was essentially an amorphous display in modern movement, loosely shaking shoulders, limbs, etc. As a veteran tango aficionado, I was disappointed in this use of “Milonga Triste” and “Querer”. These are studding tango compositions, and it would have been better served for the organizers to garner support from tango performers for a tango score. The dancers were Alexandra Gavrilescu and Bogdan Canila (both Bucharest Opera). Fokine’s The Dying Swan, music by Saint-Saëns, danced by Ulyana Lopatkina (Mariinsky Ballet), was one of tonight’s highlights, with the Russian-born, prima ballerina effectively turning her long arms into fading wings, fluttering feverishly, then upstretched and stiffened behind her back, as she has fallen lifelessly. Mélanie Genin, on harp, and Mihai Marica, on cello, performed the spellbinding score.

Soon Ms. Cojocaru appeared as yet another courtesan in distress, with Freidemann Vogel (Mikhailovsky Ballet) in the Pas de Deux from The Lady of the Camellias. Ms. Cojocaru first appears covered head to toe in a long black veil, then proceeds into torturous choreography by Neumeier, all to piano music by Chopin, with Mr. Varga on hand again, performing this score with its lusty, transporting themes. The pièce de résistance of the Gala occurred in Petipa’s “The Black Swan Pas de Deux” from Swan Lake. Tamara Rojo, Artistic Director of the English National Ballet, was partnered by the thrilling Mr. Hernandez, a lead Principal with the company. Ms. Rojo was gripping. She whisked through triple fouettés with comedic and magnetic gestures, with poise, and balance. The chemistry with Mr. Hernandez, who was equally enthralling, was thick. Mr. Hernandez’ high speed and mid-air leaps brought the hall to cheers. The final work of this Gala was an original choreography by Mr. Kobborg. Mr. Varga, on piano, and Kurt Nikkanen, guest violinist (NYC Ballet Concertmaster) played a score by Wieniawski and Bazzini. This ballet for a trio was totally unique and different, called Les Lutins. Daniel Ulbricht (NYCB), Shuhei Yoshida (Bucharest Opera), and Ms. Cojocaru, in dark pants, white shirts, and suspenders, took solo turns, showcasing some stunning feats, with warmth, wit, and whimsy. It was a fantastic finale.

After the full applause and floral bouquets, Ms. Cojocaru personally thanked each individual performer, as they stood together in a row, for their volunteer support for this ballet benefit. She spoke with glowing praise and sincere gratitude. Kudos to all, and I look forward to following the development of this dream. One day in the not too distant future, I certainly hope, the Romanian National Ballet will perform in New York in full grandeur.

Alina Cojocaru and Dawid Trzensimiech
in Ashton's "Marguerite and Armand" (Excerpt)
Courtesy of Johnny Vacar

Ulyana Lopatkina in Fokine's "The Dying Swan"
Courtesy of Johnny Vacar

Tamara Rojo and Isaac Hernandez
in Petipa's "The Black Swan Pas de Deux"
Excerpt from Petipa's "Swan Lake"
Courtesy of Johnny Vacar

Alina Cojocaru's Speech at the Finale
Thanking Each Participant and Collaborator
Courtesy of Johnny Vacar

Andreea Popa (Mara Society), Princess Marina Sturdza,
Alina Cojocaru, Elena Buruiana (Mara Society),
and Raluca Gold-Fuchs (RA Entertainment)
Courtesy of Johnny Vacar

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at